English novelist, poet, translator
Forthcoming this year: The Sparsholt Affair (Picador)
Nick never talked to Catherine about his crush on her brother. He was afraid she would find it funny. But they talked a good deal about Leo, in the week of waiting, a week that crawled and jumped and crawled. There wasn’t much to go on, but enough for two lively imaginations to build a character from: the pale-blue letter, with its dubious ascenders; his voice, which only Nick had heard, in the stilted cheerful chat which finalized the plans, and which was neutrally London, not recognizably black, though he sensed a special irony and lack of expectation in it; and his colour photograph, which showed that if Leo wasn’t as handsome as he claimed he still demanded to be looked at. He was sitting on a park bench, seen from the waist up and leaning back—it was hard to tell how tall he was. He was wearing a dark bomber jacket and gazed away with a frown, which seemed to cast a shadow over his features, or to be a shadow rising within them. Behind him you could see the silver-grey crossbar of a racing bike, propped against the bench.
The substance of the original ad (‘Black guy, late 20s, v. good-looking, interests cinema, music, politics, seeks intelligent likeminded guy 18-40’) was half-obliterated by Nick’s later dreamings and Catherine’s premonitions, which dragged Leo further and further off into her own territory of uncomfortable sex and bad faith. At times Nick had to reassure himself that he and not Catherine was the one who had a date with him. Hurrying home that evening he glanced through the requirements again. He couldn’t help feeling he was going to fall short of his new lover’s standards.
—From The Line Of Beauty (Picador, 2004)
A 12-part series of portraits selected for Lounge by Rohit Chawla, who has photographed over 200 authors at the Jaipur Literature Festival over a decade.